Time Management is Dead. Here is the Alternative

May 23, 2018 • 7 minute read • by Saeed


“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration. The rest of us just get up and go to work.”

—Stephen King

Time is a finite resource. The number of hours in a day are fixed.

Energy is not. The quality and quantity of available energy is boundless and renewable.

Attention is also a limited resource and a commodity. Where your attention goes, so does your learning. Where your attention goes, energy flows. And where energy flows, whatever you’re focusing on grows.

Time management is outdated

Time management experts will tell you to create to-do lists, prioritize tasks and schedule dedicated time for your activities. Discipline, prioritization, and organization are important components of productivity but they are not the be all and end all. To be sure, organization helps manage time and therefore manage energy. But how often do you realistically stick with these regiments? How many times each day does a well laid plan go pear-shaped because a colleague or a family member had a crisis?

The Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi wrote extensively, in the 4th century BC, about the importance of letting go. He makes the crucial point that a regimented, well-organized life doesn’t simply reflect a sense of duty, but a desire to control personal circumstances—which, to Zhuangzi, is a negative.

You know that putting in more time is not the answer either. If you had 36 hours in a day instead of 24 you wouldn’t get more done. You’d just waste more time. Putting in longer hours has the deleterious effect of exhaustion, disengagement and burnout. There is no scientific or labor force rationale behind the 8 hour work day. It’s simply a century old norm left over from the industrial revolution. The 8 hour work day is an antiquated marathon race.

The Brain Works in Sprints

Today, people everywhere seem to be experiencing an epidemic of overwhelm at work. We have information overload and we have distraction overload. It’s not separation anxiety but rather connection anxiety we suffer from. The technological umbilical cord of smart phones and cloud computing tether us to the office and make even more demands on our time. One of the usual arguments for “connecting” workers is that it helps them multitask and increase productivity. Recent research suggests otherwise. Technology can easily sap productivity. Some 41% of respondents to a LinkedIn survey cited “unwanted email” as the “biggest drain” on workplace productivity.

The truth is that the human brain doesn’t work well under these conditions which force it into marathons of productivity. The human brain works best in sprints. We can really do deep thinking and focus on any given task for 90-120 minutes at a time. Afterwards, a 20-30 minute break is needed for renewal. That’s why I recommend to my coaching clients who struggle with ‘time management’ to think “What can I get done in 90 minutes” instead of what can I get done in 8 hours. Focusing your energy for 90 minutes on a task is more manageable and at the end of the day, more productive.

 Manage Your Energy Not Your Time

Everybody has 24 hours in a day. But not everybody has the same energy levels. Some are more productive in the morning while others do better in the afternoon and still others work best in the evenings or late at night. The modern day workforce is beginning to recognize this and dishing out more autonomy to employees in how they get work done. Recognizing your natural energy patterns helps you be more productive with your time. It is at times where energy levels are low that you should deploy those to-do lists. It is at these times you should schedule activities that require less creativity and more automation. Take frequent breaks and build in energy boosters like walking around the block. You can’t change the amount of time you have but you can change how you feel throughout the day by hacking your time and hacking your brain.

In their influential Harvard Business Review article, authors Tony Schwartz (founder of the Energy Project) and a coauthor of Catherine McCarthy (senior vice president at the Energy Project) recommend these practices for renewing four dimensions of personal energy:

Physical Energy

  • Enhance your sleep by setting an earlier bedtime and reducing alcohol use.
  • Reduce stress by engaging in cardiovascular activity at least three times a week and strength training at least once.
  • Eat small meals and light snacks every three hours.
  • Learn to notice signs of imminent energy flagging, including restlessness, yawning, hunger, and difficulty concentrating.
  • Take brief but regular breaks, away from your desk, at 90- to 120-minute intervals throughout the day. – 2 – Emotional Energy
  • Defuse negative emotions–irritability, impatience, anxiety, insecurity–through deep abdominal breathing.
  • Fuel positive emotions in yourself and others by regularly expressing appreciation to others in detailed, specific terms through notes, e-mails, calls, or conversations.
  • Look at upsetting situations through new lenses. Adopt a “reverse lens” to ask, “What would the other person in this conflict say, and how might he be right?” Use a “long lens” to ask, “How will I likely view this situation in six months?” Employ a “wide lens” to ask, “How can I grow and learn from this situation?”

Mental Energy

  • Reduce interruptions by performing high-concentration tasks away from phones and e-mail.
  • Respond to voice mails and e-mails at designated times during the day.
  • Every night, identify the most important challenge for the next day. Then make it your first priority when you arrive at work in the morning.

 Spiritual Energy

  • Identify your “sweet spot” activities–those that give you feelings of effectiveness, effortless absorption, and fulfillment. Find ways to do more of these. One executive who hated doing sales reports delegated them to someone who loved that activity.
  • Allocate time and energy to what you consider most important. For example, spend the last 20 minutes of your evening commute relaxing, so you can connect with your family once you’re home.
  • Live your core values. For instance, if consideration is important to you but you’re perpetually late for meetings, practice intentionally showing up five minutes early for meetings.

How Companies Can Help

  • To support energy renewal rituals in your firm: Build “renewal rooms” where people can go to relax and refuel.
  • Subsidize gym memberships.
  • Encourage managers to gather employees for midday workouts.
  • Suggest that people stop checking e-mails during meetings.

A Final Word

According to research by Harvard University psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, we spend 46.9% of our time not thinking about what is happening in front of us.

The key to being productive might be found in using that time effectively through embracing the slumps in our day – those moments when your productivity begins to ebb away, usually in the midmorning, directly after lunch or mid-afternoon. Maybe this is why Tony Schwartz has this as his favorite energy management tip: “Spend at least 30 minutes a day reading a book.  It’s a way to train absorbed attention, and to be more reflective – an antidote to life on the Internet.”

Good luck .

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

10 Time Tested Tips to Make You Unstoppable at Work

May 11, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Where you will sit when you are old, shows where you stood in youth.” —African Proverb

Are you good at work? Notice I didn’t ask, are you good at your work? There is a difference between being a good financial advisor or whatever you do and being good at work. Work is sport. There are rules to follow and scores that are kept. Competition is sometimes fierce and teamwork can make all the difference. Some players stand out. Others fade into retirement or obscurity. Those whose names become synonymous with their sport work hard and reach the upper limits of their talent band. Yes, they have talent, but they also always have self-discipline, grit and resilience. The best players have a playbook for success and they follow it religiously.  The practices highlighted below are based on 30 years of leadership and management experience and a playbook for success at work.

Game on.

  1. Have a vision – you have to know where you are going in order to know how you’ll get there. Without a vision or a destination, you are just sitting in the traffic jam that is your career. The only way traffic is tolerable is when you know you’ve got a nice place to go. So, be sure you check the map each day and keep your ultimate destination in sight.
  2. Be relentless with your self-discipline – without self-discipline, success is impossible. Period. Done. End of story. Self-discipline is the variable that forces us to go the extra mile, to put in the extra hour, and the extra work that leads to success. Self-discipline breeds consistency, focus, and skill building. It is the engine behind the volume of work you need to produce to be ahead of the game. Without it, the game is lost.
  3. Build out your network – people need people. Your next job is likely coming through who you know rather than your education or work experience or polished resume. You need to connect with other and be vocal about your interests and build relationships with key people in your industry. You never know which relationship leads to the next opportunity so treat each one well and burn no bridges.
  4. Take on more work – taking on more work pushes you out of your comfort zone which is how you grow. Instead of looking busy and stressed out, look for busy and stressed out co-workers and lend them a hand. By doing this, you provide value and build relationship equity.
  5. Learn continuously – acquire new knowledge and continuously stay on top of trends or research relevant to your field. Become an expert so that you can be the first person people think of when there is a new project on the horizon. Read, research and talk to others who are experts themselves. Wear your curiosity on your sleeve.
  6. Make yourself visible – experience is important but so is exposure. If you are stuck in a cubicle in the back of an office and afraid to show yourself, you’ll be invisible to the world. No one will know about your talents and the value you can create for them. Seek opportunities to be in more meeting and gain access to more decision makers.
  7. Take initiative – don’t wait for the next assignment, create it. Be proactive in looking for tasks that are falling through the cracks and complete them. Your colleagues and your boss will appreciate the effort and you’ll be seen as a strong member of the team.
  8. Be self-directed – You know what managers appreciate most? Not having to be one. When you are self-directed, you relieve your manager of the burden of delegation and decision making. They can now concentrate on other more high leverage activities than figuring out how to keep you busy. Self-directedness conveys confidence and professionalism. It also maximized team productivity.
  9. Manage emotions effectively – there is nothing worse in the work place than being toxic. Negativity, gossip, back-stabbing, anger outbursts and the like simply don’t have a place in the world of work. Of course, we all have frustrations with our bosses and colleagues. We all feel from time to time that we treated unfairly, that we are not seen for our worth or our work. There is nothing wrong with emotions but being emotional about every single slight will take its toll. Learn to manage your emotions effectively so that people know exactly what they expect from you on a day-to-day basis.
  10. Persevere in the face of failure – in life and in work, there are inevitable failures and setbacks. Learn to use failure as a learning opportunity rather than a reason to self-flagellate and reinforce limiting beliefs. Perseverance is the mindset of champions. History is littered with examples of those that failed yet persevered their way to success. Struggle, setbacks and short-term failures don’t have to drain your motivation. It can be the opposite as long as you adopt the right mindset.

So, there you have it – your success playbook for whatever work you do, whatever environment you may be in, and wherever you may be on your career trajectory. To put these tips in motion, you will need passion, purpose, commitment and intentionality. Where ever you may be, start today. It’s not too late. You can still win the game.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

 

Why Your Values are the Secret Ingredient to the Life You Want to Live (and How to Discover Them)

May 8, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do.”

~ Elvis Presley 

Values are everything. They act like an internal compass. Values are your ‘north star’ that lead you to land when you’re lost at sea. When our values are met, we feel great. When they are missing, we feel lost.

Success comes from the congruence between your goals and values. When you feel a setback, values keep you focused and motivated. So why are values so important and how do you discover yours?

Values are in your DNA

Your values are probably your parents’ values. People are values driven. People are attracted to other people and to organizations where the culture is the same as their values. This is why organizations become more homogeneous over time as does your social network. It’s also why values can drive prejudice in a workplace or in society. The glue of the in-group is values.

Values drive decisions

We make hundreds of decisions each day. Those decisions are a reflection of our values. Or at least they should be. If you let the temporary pain of an immediate problem drive your decision making, you will likely be led astray. But your values will never abandon you. You don’t realize this but your values are in collusion with your purpose.

Values trigger emotions

Your values determine how you handle conflict. When you’re angry about something or frustrated, you’re likely experiencing a values conflict. Your values form your conscience and together they are your court appointed attorney. When something or someone makes you behave or act against your values, then your conscience will raise an objection.

Values determine performance

If you want to correct performance, you have to focus on behavior not personality. Behavior best responds to values. You are more likely to change behavior (and to sustain the change) when the motivation comes from within. Values are embedded deep within.

 

Values work from deep within

When you are not living by your values, it can feel like a beach ball being held under the water. There is a feeling of constant pressure pushing to the surface. Your values are buried deep in your unconscious mind and bringing them to the forefront of your consciousness is a simple but important exercise. The more tricky equation is living by your values once you’ve surfaced them.

So how do you discover your values and know which are core values?

You can “pick” values from a list but this often leads to people choosing “SHOULD Values” – that is to say, the ones they think they ‘should’ have.

Instead, start by asking yourself what you need for your personal or professional life and what is important to you. What can you compromise on and what is non-negotiable. Your mind will immediately lead to a value that is important, such as “Trust” or “Independence” for example.

Now, dig a little deeper and come up with another value that is greater than trust and keep on collecting words that you feel are important to you until you find your core value.

So how do you know which is your core value?

Your core value is the value that is greater than any other value. It is the center of the target – the one where you feel that there is nothing more important than this value. Find at least 5 of these and begin to live your life in congruence with them. Again, easier said than done. Courage is often needed to live by your values.

A final word

If you don’t know what your values are, how can you possibly know where you are going or know what success looks like for you? That’s why in a coaching context, we often start by discovering values.

We must also be aware that there are limiting beliefs that can hold us back from meeting our values. These are the road blocks that will prevent you from reaching your goals and can even block you from meeting your values. You need to be aware of these roadblocks as well as your values and work consciously to change limiting beliefs to empowering beliefs. This is how you bring limitless happiness into your life.

The alignment of empowering beliefs with core values and behaviors that match, is the secret sauce to a life fulfilled.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

What is True Leadership? (hint: it is NOT management)

April 26, 2018 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

~John C. Maxwell

Leadership is influence.

Leadership comes from our heart and our head. It’s our attitude, and attitude is everything.

Leadership is also the ability to focus a team’s attention and the ability to inspire a team towards a grander vision – a purpose that is bigger than ourselves.

In 1961, JFK visited the NASA Space Center. The United States was in the space race with Russia, a crucial period in geopolitical history. The Russians were ahead of us, and we felt threatened as a culture and a society. Kennedy wanted us to be the first to put a man on the moon. He offered a challenge and a penultimate goal to the dedicated people in the field:

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon returning him safely to the earth.”

– John F. Kennedy

Notwithstanding the risk to his own reputation, which was at stake on the world stage, his vision shook NASA to its foundations. In part because, the spacecraft they would use had only a tiny fraction of the computing power of the smarphone that is in your pocket right now.

But at the same time accountability, engagement, motivation, and morale within NASA soared. Most leaders find this surprising. We tend to think that morale is impacted negatively when accountability and pressure are at their highest. The reality is the opposite: providing teams with an inspirational stretch goal, narrowing their focus and harnessing their attention increases both accountability and the engagement of the team.  This is what James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 blockbuster book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies meant by Big Audacious Hairy Goal (BHAG).

As evidence, consider that during his tour of the NASA space center Kennedy stopped to speak with a janitor. He asked, “What do you do?” The janitor responded, “I am helping to put a man on the moon.”

How are you influencing others?

If that influence is coming from your heart and your head, it will have a positive impact on others. That is true leadership!

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

*Photograph of President Obama and White House custodian Lawrence Libscomb by White House photographer Pete Souza

What’s Your Story?

April 26, 2018 • 2 minute read • by Saeed


Want to up your job interview game? Learn how to tell your story.

Step 1: Start by asking a few ‘Origin Story’ questions by going back in time (pro tip: ask your mom the same questions):

  • What have I always gravitated towards naturally?
  • What activities did I lose myself in?
  • What did I talk about all the time?
  • What did I love to read?

Step 2: Extract key themes to ‘discover’ your true self.

Step 3: Connect these discoveries with what you do now or want to do.

Step 4: Look at job openings with this new perspective.

Step 5: Look for jobs that reconnect you to these early ‘values.’

Step 6: In the interview, connect a story from your past to the role you are applying for in the present and connect the two to show why you are the right fit.

Step 7: Sign offer letter.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Communication Breakdown at Work?

April 26, 2018 • 2 minute read • by Saeed


“What we have here is a problem to communicate.”

~ Spoken by Strother Martin (as the  prison warden) in the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke

George Bernard Shaw best summed up the problems that lead to communication breakdowns. The single biggest problem in communication, he said, is the illusion that it has taken place. And therein lies the problem.

Here is a perfect example of what he meant spoken by a U.S. government official: “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant!”

Ha?

Question: How do you communicate with impact?

Answer: Strategic Listening.  Here is how it works:

Step 1: Put away the smartphone.

Step 2: Suspend judgement.

Step 3: Reflect on what’s being said.

Step 4: Ask open-ended questions to bring people out and get them to expand their ideas.

Step 5: Then restate their ideas to show you’ve been listening.

Step 6: Have a real conversation.

Good luck:)

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

How to Solve the 3 Most Common Performance Problems

 

April 24, 2018 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises.”  ~ Mae West

In all my time as a management consultant and executive coach, I have had one challenge surface more than any other: fixing performance problems.

Poor performance typically falls under one of these category types:

·        Underperformance related to personal problems

·        Breaches of workplace policies and procedures

·        Unsatisfactory quality or quantity of work

Of these, unsatisfactory quality or quality of work is the most common.  It is the problems related to attitudes, motivation, skills, and knowledge that challenge managers the most. Here is how that breaks down into the most common performance related issues:

1.      What am I supposed to do?

Often, employees don’t know what they are supposed to do. This may be because of an unclear job description or may be because you have not communicated expectations and standards clearly. The fix is simple: communicate expectations and standards clearly, check for understanding and monitor performance. Provide reinforcing feedback when you observe improvements.

2.      Why am I supposed to do it?

Next, employees may not understand the why of a task or a change in office policies. When people don’t understand why, they put up resistance. Here again, the fix comes in the form of clear communication explaining the reasoning behind policies, procedures, performance standards or changes. When possible, involve your employees in the solutions. People tend to own the solutions they are part of creating and therefore more motivated to support their implementation.

3.      How am I supposed to do it?

Some employees don’t know howthey are supposed to do their job. They simply don’t have the knowledge and skill level you thought they did. In this case, you have to tell or show people how to perform their job and observe them while they attempt to do it. Reinforce what they do well and redirect what they do poorly or incorrectly.

A final word…

Most people do a good job most of the time. A few of them occasionally underperform. All of them probably mess up every once in a while. Performance problems vary from individual to individual and situation to situation. There is no silver bullet, no one best way of fixing them. Most people will perform well as long as they know what to do, why they are doing it and how to do it. Today’s employees are more independent and empowered than generations past. They need more than a simplistic reward system to maintain motivation and performance. Provide everyone who works for you with honest feedback on how well they’re doing on a regular basis. Be timely. Be specific. Be sincere. Explain how the good performance fits into the big picture. Listen to their concerns and use their ideas if possible. Identify and change policies, procedures and practices that are, in reality, obstacles to good performance. Make it easy for your people to do their jobs. Then sit back, and watch performance improve.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

10 Ways to Make Your Performance Reviews Not Suck

 

April 4, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” ~ Jerry Seinfeld

Performance reviews are dreaded beasts of burden for managers and direct reports alike. They make people feel small. They reduce people to banal check boxes and categories. But they don’t have to be like this. If you are still marking people as ‘fair’ or ‘exceeding expectations’ in your annual form, you should really rethink your system. While this article is not about re-hauling your system, it is about helping you cope with whatever system you currently have in place. This article is about the universal principles you can deploy for better delivery, greater impact and ultimately stronger performance. Adopt these and you will exponentially improve the experience of giving and receiving your performance reviews on both sides of the table. Neglect them, and well, the experience will suck.

1.    It starts with intentions. You need to check your intention going into the meeting. You need to ask yourself if you are sincerely interested in learning and understanding what drives your employee or just being right. Do a serious check in with yourself and then really try to see the person for who they are. Leave your agenda at the door.  Remember, it’s about behaviors not personalities.

2.    Fail to plan, plan to fail. This is the worst time to wing it dude. You have to be ready if you get hit with information you were not expecting and is important to consider. You have to be ready to be flexible to create a mutually beneficial strategy if problems are surfaced you were not expecting. If you think you’re heading into a one-way conversation, you’ve already lost. If you can’t meet their expectations, be ready to acknowledge the importance of what they are saying, and then explain what you need to do and why. Be prepared for salary increase requests and revelations you may have not been aware of before. Don’t act surprised. Act curious.

3.    It’s about facts, not fiction. This is not the time for your opinions. Don’t let it become a case of he said, she said. If you share your opinion, you are opening the door for a counter opinion. Instead, be prepared with facts and evidence to support your case. As a best practice, keep a log of performance pluses and deltas throughout the year. Keep copies of related work you want to use as examples. Anticipate and be prepared for counter arguments but always present the facts.

4.    Emotions will get you in trouble. If you feel emotional or emotions begin to creep in, reschedule. This is not the time or place to emote. Emotions have no place in a performance reviews so you would do well to manage them accordingly. Being able to do this means the difference between responding or reacting, which can make the difference in a calm or chaotic performance review experience.

5.    Strengths and weaknesses are so yesterday. Can we not do better than this people? Seriously? Yes we can. Most performance reviews focus on strengths and weaknesses. Instead of strengths and weaknesses, focus on values and opportunities. It’s a better framework that invites a deeper understanding of what motivates the people you work with and it will help you coach and lead them to better performance outcomes. You’re welcome.

6.    Zip that lip. I’m always surprised by how little people listen. Listening is the most underrated element of communication. You can glean so much about what’s going on in the mind of your direct reports by listening and asking a few strategic and well placed questions. Trust me. The intel you gather through listening is indispensable and far more valuable than whatever you have to say. So zip it and learn.

7.    Values eat everything else for lunch. Values are in your DNA. Your values are probably your parents’ values. Values drive engagement, decisions, behavior, and well, you name it. A person’s emotional reaction is the easiest way to pinpoint a value. Negative emotions signal violated values. If the person becomes more emotional and animated in speaking about a topic, that’s because it’s important to them. There is a value hiding in there. Listen for repeated themes. Mine them for gold.

8.    Change the frame. People are locked into their own frame of reference. Change their frame, that is to say, change their perspective, and you’ll change their mind. Try asking powerful coaching questions: What if we could see this situation differently? What would a more positive perspective on this situation look like? Some people’s perspective is so intractable you may find yourself beating your head against the wall. Some people just aren’t willing to explore perspectives that are outside the realm of their own experience. It happens.  But at least you have made the effort if you try to get them to a new perspective. Recognize when the conversation should be terminated in order to maintain a respectful relationship and move on rather than trying to force your own viewpoint on the situation.

9.    At the end of the day, we work for the same place. Getting to agreement is not that hard. It’s just a process that’s well managed. Put everything on the table on both side and then look for the common ground. You don’t have to agree on everything but you both have mutual goals that intersect at some level. That intersection is what’s best for the enterprise and it’s where you should start looking for common ground. Sometimes you will need to reach to a higher level to do this so don’t try to get there too early. Make sure that the person feels sufficiently heard first. That’s your threshold for readiness. Once you cross that threshold, most people are congenial.

10.            Lock in the accountability.  To make sure everyone is walking away with a common understanding, solidify some action steps with clear timelines for who, when, how and how much of the behavior change you expect (did I say it’s about behavior?) Create opportunities to check in regularly during the year on the accountability action plan and support your direct report in maintaining their momentum to success. Provide more coaching support as needed.

A final word…

Performance reviews are generally not done well. People wait all year to provide critical feedback. This is a mistake. Nothing should be said at this stage that is a surprise to the employee because they should be working in a feedback rich environment that is constantly nurturing their growth. But we all know that’s not reality. So many workplaces suffer from so many dysfunctions. If you are lucky enough to work in a place where the culture supports a more progressive approach to performance reviews, then much of the above is already baked in to your day-to-day operations. If you are not, arm yourself with these tips and at least create a better experience for you and your direct report.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

2 Easy Steps to Transform from Manager to Coach

March 28, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” ~ Amelia Earhart

At the core, coaching is a more powerful form of communication and engagement. This richer form of communication begins by asking better, well crafted questions that focus not on the problem or the solution but on the individual and their process.

If you are a manager, this means getting off of your agenda for a moment and taking the time to better understand your direct report’s point of view. It means respecting their point of view and then together, co-creating a new possibility that would support your shared goals. It is about providing them with the space as well as the ability to tell you what they want or need. And this can happen during every conversation you have.

Coaching is the single most important managerial competency that separates highly effective managers from garden variety supervisors. Here are two steps that form the foundation of coaching to transform you from manager to coach.

Step 1: Ask Powerful Questions

To ensure you have a solid foundation to build from, you will need to start with a baseline of best practices, and then, over time you can make it your own by leveraging your own style, strengths and personality into your coaching.

Coaching engages a process of mindful conversation through powerful questions.

The right questions tend to show up naturally and organically within each conversation. The best coaches have attuned their listening skills to find the right question at the most appropriate time to unlock a key insight. This is both an art and a skill that must be practiced over and over to do well.

When this process of mindful inquiry is deployed against problems in a consistent manner not only are the ideas and solutions generated more meaningful, but there is a level of self-reliance and empowerment created in the individual that has lasting impact.

There are two main types of questions, OPEN and CLOSED. Closed questions are less useful in coaching because they only promote a “yes” or “no” response. Open questions promote discovery and stimulate thinking. They are therefore ideal for coaching.

Open questions are ones that start with what, where, when, how, and who. Aim to avoid the ‘why’ question which can be seen as aggressive and stimulate a defensive response. There are three specific types of open questions you may find helpful when coaching. They are:

1. Clarifying questions: “What else can you tell me about that?”

2. Creative questions. “What if the possibilities were limitless?”

3. Process questions. “How would you approach that from a different perspective?”

The best way to get someone to self generate ideas and solutions is by asking them, which is why powerful questions are so critical. And powerful questions are the key to helping individuals unlock their own potential.

Step 2: Foster Action and Accountability

Gaining insight into your own process is one side of the coin. It is half the story. The other side is acting on the solutions you generate.

In coaching, the desired solution is generated by the individual, not the coach, as they begin to better understand their own process. The magic of this method of engaging employees is that when they generate the solution, they also own it. And if they own it, we’re more apt to act on it.

Accountability increases the positive impact of coaching conversations and solidifies solutions and actions towards desired results.  Holding people accountable is about being clear, following up regularly, and having honest conversations when their commitment is wavering. Again, their process is more important than what they did or didn’t do. In coaching, you are always seeking to tap the roots, not swing from branch to branch.

A Final Word

At most companies, coaching isn’t part of what managers are formally trained to do. To foster higher levels of satisfaction and engagement, managers and employees should be having regular communication around growth and development. The best method to do this is coaching. It’s a powerful experience to create a resonant connection with another person and help them to achieve something they care about and to become more of who they want to be.

Without these regular conversations, employee growth is stunted. So is engagement and retention. Starting today, you can be significantly more effective as a manager — and enjoy your job more — by engaging in regular coaching conversations with your team members.

To do so effectively, you must understand what drives each person, help build connections between each person’s work and the organization’s mission and strategic objectives, provide timely feedback, and help each person learn and grow on an ongoing basis.

Starting today, create and sustain a coaching partnership that is focused on moving forward positively, listening deeply, asking powerful questions and building accountability.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. By that I mean your life is a reflection of you. If you want to change your life, you have to change yourself. If you want to change the world, you have to be that change. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world.

It’d be great to have you along on this journey.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

You Can’t Be A Great Leader If You Can’t Do These 5 Things

March 23, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” ~ John C. Maxwell

All leaders agree that certain leadership skills are must-haves in order to achieve the long-term results you desire. Here are the 5 that make my list in order of importance:

1.      Managing People

Managing people is part of leadership, but it’s a part that may not come naturally to some. In almost every job, people skills are every bit as important as technical, or hard skills. Inevitably, this means managing people to overcome interpersonal conflict, helping staff with their own goal setting, time management, and collaboration challenges, encouraging staff to diagnose their own performance, and establishing a culture of accountability for the team.

In short, the best leaders know how manage people to bring out their best as individuals and as a collective unit in order to get the results they want.

2.      Communicating Effectively

While technical skills are important, skills such as being able to communicate effectively are indispensible to you as a leader. We spend large portions of our careers learning the hard skills required to do our jobs, but relatively little time learning how to build effective relationships, communicate clearly, listen actively or communicate to persuade. These skills are critical to leadership and should not be seen as merely ‘soft’ skills.

In short, the best leaders use the full gamut of their communication skills to get the results they want.

3.      Empowering People

The best leader knows how to make staff shine, by delegating responsibilities according to each staff member’s strengths and weaknesses. They use an effective delegation model because they know that a leader’s ability to delegate will have a significant impact on driving business results. This means knowing how to define the span of freedom and responsibility in executing tasks for direct reports, empowering with clarity, ensuring staff take personal ownership for delivering on commitments

In short, the best leaders know how to best nudge, motivate and deploy their staff’s strengths to get the results they want.

4.      Leading Meetings

Leading effective and productive meetings is one of the most important skills a leader needs to have. This may seem like a superficial skill to focus on, but consider how many meetings are run daily in an organization and how many are in fact ineffective. Almost all meetings will be run by someone in a leadership role. You need to step back and consider how effectively organized those meetings are and look at the productive outcome. This means having the ability to engage people and knowing how to get everyone involved and participating in the meeting topic. It means managing meetings effectively, so each member is heard and getting to the main meeting points quickly. It means staying on time and on task, focusing on core objectives and limiting distractions, and perhaps most importantly, it means generating actionable results.

In short, the best leaders know how to hold productive meetings and use the format to get the results they want.

5. Managing Change

While you can’t know exactly what the future will bring, there is one thing you can train leaders to face: Change. Even seasoned leaders who may not be undergoing a complete culture transformation may be challenged by change management. These are difficult choices to make. How do you educate others about a change? How do you choose whether to try a different change tactic? How do you assess your own impact toward change? How, what and where do you communicate about the change?

The best leaders know that they must get everyone on board to share the same perception about the change effort to get the results they want.

A Final Word…

The Failure of the field of Learning and Development is not having taught people the bedrock principles about people, leadership and management.  Yes, people are complex but at the same time, there is a ton of research about what works and what doesn’t. And as long as you apply the research and your own experience in a thoughtful and intentional way, you will get the results you want.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others. 

I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe.

By that I mean your life is a reflection of you. If you want to change your life, you have to change yourself. If you want to change the world, you have to be that change.

I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world.

It’d be great to have you along on this journey.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.